Volume 91, 2017
Philosophy, Faith, and Modernity
Dispositive Causality and the Art of Medicine
For many philosophers, the relation of medicine to health is exemplary for understanding the relation of human power to nature in general. Drawing on Heidegger and Aquinas, this paper examines the relation of art to nature as it emerges in the second book of Aristotle’s Physics, and it does so by articulating the duality of efficient causality. The art of medicine operates as a dispositive cause rather than as a perfective cause; it removes obstacles to the achievement of health, but it does not impose health. Medicine, on this conception, aids the efficient causality of the natural body rather than substituting for it. The loss of dispositive causality makes efficient causality an imposition of force that bypasses the natural power to achieve natural goods. The paper concludes, with Plato, by arguing that dispositive causality offers a way to understand not only medicine but also governing, teaching, and parenting.